RPA Activist Info Masthead
Issue: #161
Join Our Mailing List





Richmond Progressive Alliance   

RPA on Council Appointment
Ask Chronicle for Retraction
Viewpoint on Council Appointment
Will Chevron Operate Safely During Strike?
Celebration for Gayle, a Forum, & Amnesia: A New Play, coming up

Bobby Bowens Progressive Center
1021 Macdonald,


Since we don't take corporate money,  our success depends on our ability to use "people power" to promote activities and programs in Richmond. The RPA Activist is one tool we use to put out our ideas. One simple thing that YOU can do is to forward the RPA Activist to friends and acquaintances. Thanks.


RPA Steering Committee Statement
City Council Appointment


The Richmond Progressive Alliance takes the matter of filling the Richmond City Council vacancy very seriously and has given a lot of time to interviewing candidates and discussion. While there are many fine people who have put themselves forward for this office, only one can be selected. Our preference is based on several considerations, which we will outline below.


Clearing the Air

Before we outline these considerations, we feel that it is important to comment on the current discussion that is taking place. We regret that the discussion has turned from a serious discussion of who will best meet the needs of Richmond into a debate about the Richmond Progressive Alliance. We feel it is important to respond to some of these issues.

1. Three candidates-Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles, and Eduardo Martinez (Team Richmond)-won last November's election against very serious, well-funded opposition and an expensive negative attack campaign. They were supported by the Progressive Alliance and others, but they make their own decisions. Their positions should be treated with respect.


2. The idea that the Richmond Progressive Alliance discusses each of the issues that come to the council and determines the position councilmembers take is totally false. The reality is that the Progressive Alliance discusses very few matters that come to the council. Discussions focus largely on big issues, such as affordable housing or the minimum wage, and on how we can work with the city council and other groups in the city to bring about change in these areas. Our positions on these issues are made public.

3. Councilmembers who are Richmond Progressive Alliance members make up their own minds on how to vote after looking to the community for input.

4. The Progressive Alliance has a long history of collaborating with others to achieve unity and move Richmond forward. Two years ago the Progressive Alliance councilmembers who had been supporting runner-up Eduardo Martinez agreed to appoint Jael Myrick. In the fall of 2013, we offered to support Tom Butt for mayor. He declined, and in February 2014 we decided to run Mike Parker as a progressive alternative. In August, when Tom entered the race at the last minute, Mike Parker agreed to withdraw so as not to divide the progressive vote. The Richmond Progressive Alliance has consistently put the interests of Richmond first.


5. Membership in the Richmond Progressive Alliance is open to anyone who believes in progressive values and the idea that the only way to challenge the obscene and unfair influence of corporate America on our politics is to organize independently to challenge that power.  


Considerations for Filling the Vacancy

Does the candidate have progressive values on issues of urban development, immigration, racism, minimum wage, housing, environment, labor rights, grassroots democracy, sustainability, andPt. Molate development?  


Does the candidate improve the diversity of the council so it is more responsive to the needs of Richmond?


The Council Decision

Adherence to the Brown Act means that councilmembers cannot all discuss this issue with every other councilmember except at council meetings. This means that a decision of such importance may take several meetings, or it may require a special election. Everyone would like to avoid a special election if possible, but the primary focus should be on making ours a council that can address the serious issues facing Richmond.  


We support Marilyn Langlois because we believe she is the best candidate for the job at this time. We fought hard for her and made the best case we could. We offered to have discussions with councilmembers on procedures that might solve their fears about "bloc voting." We tried to convince councilmembers to support Marilyn. That is democracy. When it became clear to us that we could not move other councilmembers, many of us urged support for another candidate, Claudia Jimenez, who is not a Progressive Alliance member and who would add important diversity (geographic, gender, cultural, and age) to the council. We had good reason to believe she was acceptable to other members of the council. At the last minute this turned out to not be the case.


  Statement by Steering Committee 2/13/15 
To SF Chronicle
RPA Asks Retraction

To: Editor, SF Chronicle

     Chip Johnson


Chip Johnson's Column of February 9 is built around a completely false statement:


"Richmond Progressive Alliance members, who carry forward decisions made by a steering committee, don't have the authority to compromise on proposals without checking with their membership first."


His source for this non-fact is not stated, but we know he has consulted none of the Council members who belong to the Progressive Alliance nor any member of the RPA Steering Committee. This non-fact is being circulated widely in Richmond by people who oppose the RPA.   


The reality is that the Progressive Alliance discusses very few matters that come to the Council. Discussions focus largely on big issues, such as affordable housing or the minimum wage, and on how we can work with the city council and other groups in the city to bring about change in these areas. Our positions on these issues are made public. Council members supported by the RPA make their own decisions after getting input from a wide number of sources.


Nor is his description of Marilyn Langlois correct. She is known in Richmond for her hard work and abilities to bring people together to unify and improve the city. Instead Chip quotes from 2012 hit piece mailers funded by Chevron.


We deserve fairer treatment. We are a grass roots organization without a PR firm to respond to false accusations.. We have just beaten an extremely well-funded attack in the election, but the attacks continue behind the scenes. Richmond is a small city, but at least for now it is a place where major local and national issues are being played out.


The Richmond Progressive Alliance  requests the following:

            1. A retraction/correction by Chip Johnson.

            2. An Op-Ed piece where we can explain the Richmond Progressive Alliance and Richmond politics.

            3. A meeting with the editors of the Chronicle so they can better understand what is happening in Richmond and the importance of accurate reporting.


Mike Parker

for Richmond Progressive Alliance Steering Committee 


As we say in every issue: Signed articles represent the views of the author and not necessarily those of the RPA." We invite and encourage other views.

On the Vacant Council Seat

At the City Council meeting of Tuesday, February 10, 2013 there was no resolution as to who would win appointment to fill the council seat vacated when Tom Butt became Mayor. Four members of the City Council are required to make the appointment by March 13, 2015 or a special election must be held (probably in November of this year).


Of the field of 18 applicants those nominated and receiving a second were: Ben Choi, Rosemary Corbin, Raquel Donoso, Claudia Jimenez, Sheryl Lane, Marilyn Langlois and Kate Sibley. Although none of them received enough votes to be appointed, this is only round one in a process that will make everyone uncomfortable for its duration.


In a factually inaccurate and provocative editorial in the SF Chronicle of 2/10/15, Chip Johnson attempted to sully the name of the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), council members Beckles, McLaughlin, Martinez and candidate Marilyn Langlois. Mayor Butt proceeded to promulgate this misinformation by sending it out on his widely read e-Forum.


To set the record straight on the Chip Johnson hit piece: Council members McLaughlin, Beckles and Martinez make their own decisions when they act as council members. They may seek the advice of RPA members but are not obliged to seek their approval. The RPA Steering Committee meets monthly and rarely discusses council business.   For obvious reasons, the issue of the vacant council seat was discussed, but at no time were there four council members involved in the discussion, which would have constituted a Brown Act violation.   Erring on the side of extreme caution in this regard, Councilman Martinez has not and will not attend any meeting where the vacancy is discussed. Johnson's hit piece was pumped and timed to try to cut off any support for RPA supported candidate Langlois. Mr. Johnson made no attempt to ascertain the facts before deciding to do a favor for Mayor Butt.


The bigger question is, why are Mayor Butt and Councilmember Jael Myrick so dead set against appointing Marilyn Langlois? After all, they have decided to consider themselves "progressives" and their success at the polls in November was in no little part due to the work of the Team Richmond campaign.   Months before he joined the City Council race as a mayoral candidate, members of the RPA asked Mr. Butt if he would run so as not to just give the position to Chevron friendly Councilmember Bates. Mr. Butt allowed many to believe that his support for Team Richmond was sincere. He allowed people to think that if Team Richmond Mayoral Candidate Mike Parker withdrew from the race so as not to "split the progressive vote" that as mayor, he (Butt) would be an ally. Parker's sacrifice by doing just this, when just before the filing deadline Butt decided to run for mayor, was a decisive boost for Butt's last minute campaign. It should also be remembered that in 2012 when faced with an appointment decision, RPA councilmembers supported the appointment of Jael Myrick.


At the Council meeting of February 10, Council member Myrick stated that he would not support Langlois: "If so much power is going to be concentrated in one organization [the RPA], I think it needs to be done through an election."


The implication is that there is a cabal, which dictates and controls the councilmembers, which it supports and that said council members would vote as a bloc in lock step. History has shown that the RPA councilmembers frequently disagree and do not vote the same way, even as recently as the last two regular city council meetings.


By voting for dedicated community organizer Claudia Jimenez, who is not a member of the RPA, for the vacant council seat, Councilmembers McLaughlin, Beckles and Martinez demonstrated their willingness to embrace an "outsider" because they respect Claudia Jimenez for her values and commitment to grassroots democracy. Apparently this was enough to deny her votes by the other council members. Let's hope they can be more flexible in their thinking.


Nor is this about Marilyn Langlois being "too radical".   She is strong, intelligent and dedicated to serving the interests of the people of Richmond.   It is possible that Butt and Myrick feel threatened by this. Perhaps Mayor Butt has something to gain by passing amendments to the General Plan and thinks that one of the other candidates might more easily be persuaded to vote with him. Perhaps the prospect of "pet projects" not always winning is irksome to him. Council member Myrick seems to be taking his cues from the Mayor, perhaps he thinks that political relevancy lies that way. Mayor Butt and Councilmember Myrick should remember that it was the people of Richmond who elected "RPA candidates" and those who they supported.  


--Tarnel Abbott

Resolution before City Council on Tuesday :
Show Support for Striking Steelworkers

SWA workers before the Chemical Safety Board hearing, 1/21/15.  Photos: Mike Parker   
On Tuesday the City Council will consider a resolution concerning possible Chevron plans to try to operate the Refinery without its regular skilled operators.

The Martinez Tesoro refinery is completely shut down.  Thanks to all who stood with the workers last Friday in the rain!  The picket line is up 24/7, and public support is very much appreciated anytime you can be there: 150 Solano Way, Pacheco.  It's close to Highways 680 and 4. Tesoro Martinez underwent an "orderly shutdown" cooperatively conducted by workers and management.  However, Chevron management has indicated that if the strike spreads to Richmond, they will continue to run the refinery --using people who may not have enough training and experience to run it safely.

As noted in last week's Key List, a USW worker suggested contacting Chevron Richmond manager Kory Judd and Richmond's Mayor Tom Butt about Chevron's threat to run their refinery here with scabs.


[For more background on the strike, there's an article from Labor Notes now posted in Portside .] 
3 More Upcoming events
Later in the shortest month:

*     *     *               *     *     *               *     *     *
*     *     *                    *     *     *                    *     *     *
Friday, Feb. 27, 8pm at East Bay Center for Performing Arts in Richmond.
Click here to buy tickets.

   More information about these events will be in the next issue of the Activist.


Some History and Understanding of the RPA
  Social Policy Article

Long article with pictures 

--have patience in downloading


RPA Activist Info

is for Richmond community members who want to be active in taking on the problems of the environment, racism, joblessness, housing, and crime to create a healthy Richmond. We believe that community involvement means more than voting every two years. It means regular communication with the candidates we elect, letting them know our issues and positions, supporting them as they try to take our issues forward. It means we attend meetings, use email, phone our neighbors, or go on marches building an organized movement to create real change.

Comments and columns are welcome. Articles and columns are the views of the authors, unsigned text  the views of the editor, Patsy Byers, and not necessarily those of the RPA. Send photos, articles, and comments to  RPAactivist@gmail.com or call  510-595-4661. Longer articles of analysis and archives of past newsletters can be found on our website.